Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Guest Post: "Author as Illustrator" by Sharon Love Cook

Sharon Love Cook brings a new dimension to this blog since she isn't content just to write the books. She wants to illustrate them, too! And, as you will see from these covers, she is very talented in both writing and illustrating her works! Welcome, Sharon!  (You gotta Love somebody with that name, eh?)

When Sharon asked me to be a guest blogger, I was very pleased. At the same time, I was afraid I’d already run out of things to say about my Granite Cove Mystery series. I’d mentioned elsewhere how I’d named my setting, the “sleepy fishing village” of Granite Cove. The fictional town is based on my home town, Gloucester, Mass., America’s oldest working seaport. In reality there’s nothing “sleepy” about Gloucester; a glance at the local newspaper’s police notes will confirm that. 

I’d also described the characters in Granite Cove and how they came to be. They are a hodgepodge of attributes borrowed from people real and imagined, but mostly real. On my opening page where I post a disclaimer, I state: “All characters in the book are fictional and products of the author’s imagination with the exception of Chester, the author’s 95 pound black Lab.” Chester doesn’t care what I write about him.

On other blogs I’ve related how I came to write this series--and how I started a writing career. At age seventeen I was hired by the Cape Ann Summer Sun, a seasonal supplement to the Gloucester Daily Times. I was a correspondent, covering the beach colony where I lived. I also provided a cartoon each week, the first time my cartoons appeared in print. Not much happened during those summers in the late ‘50s to early ‘60s. My copy tended to be about the Red Cross swim classes, the restoration of the wooden steps leading to the beach and the jellyfish invasions. On one occasion a teenage resident received a visit from her Japanese pen pal. This blew the jellyfish right off the page. 

Because I didn’t want to cover the same old territory, I thought it’d be interesting if I wrote about my book covers. An art school grad, I had the pleasure of illustrating them. When A Nose for Hanky Panky was being published by Mainly Murder Press, the editor contacted me. She told me to get in touch with the designer if I had suggestions regarding my cover. I promptly contacted the designer and said I envisioned the following on my cover: 
1.) a chi-chi office at night; a nice wooden desk, diplomas on the wall. 
2.) a shapely pair of legs in high heels jutting out from behind the desk.
3.) an empty wine glass on the floor, spilled wine spreading dark as blood.
4.) a  wheeled caddy holding bottles of liquor.
5.) An open window, curtains billowing. In the distance, a moonlit beach; looking in the window: a pig.

I only got that far when the designer told me to stop. “Can you sketch it out?” she asked. I said I’d try. I sat and drew exactly what I wanted. The drawing came out so well I got out my paints. When I was through I liked the finished product. I asked the editor if she would accept it. After a while she got back to me, saying my cover had been approved. 

For my second Granite Cove Mystery, A Deadly Christmas Carol, I did the cover as well. I added another shapely pair of legs. As they were stretched out in the snow, these legs wore boots. (The legs are not gratuitous; they actually play a role in the books.) 

Now I’m working on book #3: Laugh ‘til You Die. As always, I plan to illustrate the cover. There will be a pair of legs jutting out from under a chest of drawers. The legs, in fuzzy slippers, won’t be shapely. They belong to an elderly woman who happened to take a nap in the wrong bed at a poorly-run nursing home. Although I don’t know who the murderer is in my current book, I know how the cover will look.

  I remember being in the fifth grade when our teacher asked the class to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote: “to write and illustrate a novel.” My teacher snickered. “Authors don’t illustrate books,” she said. I wish that teacher was alive today. I’d send her copies. 


Sharon Love Cook has written a humor column for The Salem News for many years. Click here for last week’s story: “Invasion of the Killer Icicles:”  http://www.salemnews.com/opinion/cook-invasion-of-the-killer-icicles/article_d87def5f-c71a-50ae-bd81-9f887024bf10.html?mode=story

 She is a writer and a cartoonist. She’s VP of Friends of Beverly Animals and not long ago maintained a herd of cats at her home that she shares with her husband, on Boston’s North Shore. The herd has thinned but she hopes to augment. Cook’s fictional village of Granite Cove is based on Cape Ann, Mass., where she grew up. 


  1. I just want to thank Sharon Moore for generously hosting me. I also want to mention that I exaggerated in my remarks about having a "herd" of cats. Not that I wouldn't want that. No, Betty Boop was our last indoor/outdoor cat. We can't let them out anymore; too many predators. As a result, they get feisty, engaging in hissy fits.

    Please leave a comment and if you're a writer, tell a little bit about what you're working on. I love to hear what people are doing. We all learn a lot from each other. C'mon, leave a message. Sharon Love Cook

    1. It's been a pleasure having you visit, Sharon. Please come again.

    2. Sharon: You went out of your way to publicize my stint as guest blogger and I appreciate it. It was fun! I've gotten many tweets from your followers. I think I mangled the responses, so tell them I'm not indifferent, I'm just digitally deficient. Thanks for having me as a guest. Sharons rule!

  2. Hello, Sharons: (If this posts twice, thank Google!) I've been wanting to say how much I enjoy Sharon's Granite Cove series. She's a funny and talented writer and illustrator. I do recommend these novels and her short stories in "The Legend of Judgment Rock." I'm eagerly awaiting "Laugh 'til You Die."
    Best to you,
    Suzanne Young
    author, Edna Davies mysteries

    1. Suzanne: Thanks so much for the kind words. You'll soon receive an envelope in the mail with some folded green stuff inside (romaine!). And BTW, if you're waiting for my third Granite Cove Mystery, I'm awaiting your--fifth? sixth?--Edna Davies Mystery whose title I don't know. Cozies rule!

  3. To my two favorite "Sharons," great blog!
    I loved both books in the Granite Cove mystery series and I can't wait to read the third! Great books with great covers!

    1. Pat: I can count on you to say something supportive. Thanks for your input. You have a dynamic series with some unique characters who (whom?) I want to visit with again.